This season, I have taken full advantage of my *friends with benefits* - most noteably, the one who has both a quince and persimmon tree in full production. In all my readings on quince, I have never found a description of a quince quite like the ones on her tree. The fruit is usually said to be like a 'lumpy pear' or even an apple. Hers look more like yellow mangos the size of a small pineapple. The only predictable thing about my friends quince is their intense tropical fragrance. If nothing else, quince can fill your house with the smell of summer in the dead of winter.
The quince is not commonly seen here in the states but appears to be making a comeback with the resurgance of canning. (Hallaluja!) It has an incredible story, steaped in ancient history and dating as far back as Asia Minor and the Cradle of Civilization. The Romans and Greeks reveared it, and its jelly is still enjoyed today by the British at teatime.
Only because I had access to quince did I try them. Funny how that works. But the more I learned about them the more I...well...the more I wanted my own damn quince tree! And so the order has been submitted and I am currently waiting for my bare root quince tree to arrive.
Reading up on the possibiiltes one could explore with six pounds of this facinating fruit, I decided on a recipe for jelly and membrillo provided by a friend. The results were great. The jelly is such a beautiful shade of light red so it makes a perfect holiday gift. The membrillo is a bit sweet for my palette but when I served it for dinner guests on crackers with manchego, it was praised and then completely devoured.
5 lbs. quince
16 cups of water
2 cups sugar to each 2 1/2 cups of quince juice
12 large rose geranium leaves (optional)
Wash quince and chop roughly, including peels and cores. Place in a heavy-bottom pot with the water and simmer gently for about 50 min, or until soft and pulpy. Strain through a jelly bag or cheese cloth, making sure to remove as much juice from the pulp as possible. Measure the juice and return to a clean pan. You should have about 10 cups. Heat up juice and add appropriate amount of sugar until completely dissolved.
Bring to a boil and boil rapidly until setting point is reached, about 15 min. Hot pack into jars and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.
Take all the fruit pulp left in the cheese cloth and put it in a pot and blend it with an immersion blender. Add 8 cups of sugar and cook about 10 minutes. Flatten out onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment to about 1/2 in. thick. Leave out for about one day and then flip over and leave out for another day. Enjoy a slice or pair it with manchego cheese.
** I divided up my membrillo into small storage containers and froze them for a later date.